International

Trump visits US troops in Afghanistan on Thanksgiving

President Donald Trump has made an unannounced visit to American troops in Afghanistan and said the US and the Taliban have been engaged in talks.

“The Taliban wants to make a deal,” Trump told troops at Bagram airbase on his first trip to the country, where he also met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

The visit for Thanksgiving comes after a prisoner swap with the Taliban aimed at resuming peace negotiations.

Trump also said the US was “substantially” reducing troop numbers.

Some 13,000 US troops remain in Afghanistan 18 years after the US intervention to oust the Taliban following the 11 September 2001 attacks.

Trump’s visit happened weeks after the Taliban freed two Western academics who had been held hostage since 2016 – American Kevin King and Australian Timothy Weeks – in exchange for three imprisoned senior militants.

“We’re meeting with them [Taliban] and we say it has to be a ceasefire and they didn’t want to do a ceasefire and now they want to do a ceasefire,” Trump said at the base near the capital, Kabul. “I believe it will probably work out that way.”

It was not clear how substantive the talks have been.

Afghan officials have long demanded a ceasefire but the Taliban, who now control more territory than at any point since they were ousted in 2001, have refused to hold direct talks with the government until a US deal is agreed.

Taliban leaders confirmed that meetings with senior US officials were being held in Doha since last weekend but that formal talks had not yet resumed, Reuters news agency reported.

Trump also reaffirmed his plan to cut troop levels to about 8,600 but did not say how many personnel would leave or when. “We’re going to stay until such time as we have a deal or we have total victory, and they want to make a deal very badly.” BBC